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Dodgers Postseason: Astros, Yankees, Braves; Rating Every Possible Playoff Match-Up

6 games and 10 days until real baseball begins again.

Dodgers
Jul 10, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; National League outfielder Cody Bellinger (35) of the Los Angeles Dodgers greets American League outfielder Aaron Judge (99) of the New York Yankees after the second round during the 2017 MLB Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With the division clinched early, much discussion on Dodgers Twitter has shifted towards which teams fans would like to face in the playoffs (and, just as importantly, who they’d prefer to avoid). 

As we enter the final stretch of the regular season, it’s worth pondering each possible playoff match-up. From NL wild card contenders to likely World Series foes, let’s take a look at every possible foe for the Dodgers next month. Each matching is rated on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of stakes, narrative value, and other tangibles. 

National League Playoffs

Washington Nationals

If there’s one wild card team in the NL with the tools to leverage a spot into a World Series run, it’s these guys. Recent Blue Heaven Podcast guest, and former Dodger Brett Tomko agrees. In the first season of the post-Harper era, the Nats have turned a nearly lost season into a solid run thanks to elite pitching and Anthony Rendon’s MVP-worthy breakout season. (One that could even land him in a Dodgers uniform this offseason.)  

The two teams have already met in the 2016 NLDS, a white-knuckle affair that ended with Clayton Kershaw’s heroic save in game five. But there’s not much else to chew on besides that. Even if you stretch back in Washington franchise history to include the 1981 NLCS in Montreal, Nats vs. Dodgers doesn’t intrigue in and of itself. Maybe it would if Harper had signed with Los Angeles!  

What the series would lack in narrative it would make up for in pitching prowess. But even that would be neutered a bit by having to burn Scherzer in the WC game, thus ensuring he’d only pitch in game three. This would still be a fascinating (potentially nerve-wracking) series, but one that doesn’t feel super animated narrative-wise. 

Rating: 6 

Chicago Cubs

Given these two historic franchises have met in two of the past three National League Championship Series, winning once each, this should make for a banger of a rubber match on paper. But the Cubs look like a team whose window is closing, failing to assert themselves as the top cop in the NL Central for second straight year. 

Many Dodger fans would no doubt place a lot of emotional value in a chance to punish Yu Darvish. But outside of that, this would likely be a one-sided affair for the Dodgers. After devastating losses to the rival Cardinals this past week, a third meeting of Dodger and Cubbie blue likely won’t have a chance to happen anyway. 

Rating: 2

Milwaukee Brewers 

For much of 2019, the NL MVP race was a DiMaggio/Williams-esque race that saw Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich trade the lead on a daily basis. Then came a fractured right kneecap that ended Yelich’s season. Somehow, the Brewers have been playing even better without their 2018 NL MVP, and now look like a lock as the Cubs fade.   

Just one year ago, these two teams made for a spectacular NLCS that magnified every single moment. But with no Yelich, a rematch just doesn’t have the same spark, especially for robbing a chance for him or Bellinger to put an exclamation point on their MVP case. 

The teams were also more evenly matched last year, with L.A.’s playoff experience proving just the hair of difference. This year, the Dodgers are far superior, and while Milwaukee’s run is admirable, it’s hard to see them making it far in the postseason without Yelich. 

Rating: 3 

St. Louis Cardinals

If there’s one NL team that strikes fear into the hearts of Dodgers Nation, it’s the Redbirds. Since the terror of Ozzie Smith and Jack Clark in the 1985 NLCS, the St. Louis Cardinals have meted out postseason pain in every single meeting except 2009. This current era of Dodger success was christened with the punishments Clayton Kershaw took from Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams. 

On paper, the 2019 Cardinals may not look like the biggest threat. But many people said the same going into the 2014 NLDS, and we know how that turned out. St. Louis are the NL’s Yankees not only in terms of talent development, but for their old-school culture that emphasizes championship prestige above all else. If the calendar reads October, you can never count them out. 

It would be scary for Los Angeles to walk that line again, especially knowing how brutal Carpenter can be on the big stage. But in a season where the Dodgers must win it all or nothing at all, it would only be fitting to exorcise the original demons of the Kershaw Era along the way. 

Rating: 10 

Atlanta Braves

Despite their rich history together, the Dodgers and the Braves don’t have anything that approaches a rivalry like that with the Cardinals. But that doesn’t change the fact that this would be an electric series from top to bottom. Atlanta has been underrated in their all-around prowess this year. 

Not that it’s surprising, honestly. For all the Phillies hype, I picked ATL to win the NL East earlier this year. The combination of the Baby Braves being a year wiser, paired with savvy veteran pickups Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann, proved to be perfect. They’ve even given the Dodgers a good scare for the best record in the NL. 

That awful Tomahawk Chop aside, the Braves don’t really inspire too much hatred in Chavez Ravine. An NLCS with them, however, would stir the right kind of passion, one borne out of watching playoff baseball at its finest. Here’s hoping it happens. 

Rating: 9 

World Series 

Tampa Bay Rays

Aside from Andrew Friedman facing his old team, what intrigue would really come out of this? As an expansion team just over 20 years old, there’s basically no history between these two franchises. 

Which isn’t to say it couldn’t be interesting in terms of play. The Rays have returned to relevance after years on the fringe, thanks chiefly to their strong rotation. They split four interleague games with the Dodgers this season, proof they can hold their own with a big market team.

One thing that would kind of undermine it, though, would be WS games at Tropicana Field. With the Metrodome long gone, it’s the undisputed worst stadium in baseball. It’d be even more discomfiting to see that ugly dome suddenly filled to the rafters given Tampa’s notorious attendance problems.  

Again, this is not to disrespect the Rays, an incredibly likable team and a model franchise for baseball. But who knows? The contrast in financial status yet comparable level of talent could make for one hell of a series. I’d be happy to be proven wrong. 

Rating: 5 

Cleveland Indians

This is a match-up most people probably aren’t expecting, especially since Cleveland could miss out in hard-luck fashion in the AL wild card. And that’s a shame, because this would honestly make for a great series. 

First, there is shared history. The Indians won their first title against Brooklyn in 1920. Second, the Indians now sport Yasiel Puig. What could be juicier than the Wild Horse having a shot at getting back at the team that traded him this past off-season? 

Most of all, it would be a series of brutal urgency for both teams. The Indians shoulder the longest title drought in MLB, having not won it since 1948. Their window is likely closing too. And the Dodgers…well, you know. 1948 vs. 1988. Who would see their misery end? 

Rating: 8 

Minnesota Twins

If this article were just my personal preference, it would begin and end with this. But you already knew that. I am a long-suffering Twins fanatic, and a Twins-Dodgers World Series is my ultimate sports dream. 

But beyond being a weirdo CA-bred Twins fan, how interesting is this to everyone else? Honestly…a lot more than you’d think. First, it would be a rematch of the 1965 World Series, a seven-game battle best remembered for Sandy Koufax’s adherence to Yom Kippur that made his game seven dominance all the more majestic. 

Second, it could be potentially dramatic. The “Bomba Squad” has set the Minneapolis skyline (and many others) ablaze with a record home run tally this season, which would make for a real challenge. However, the Dodgers’ starting pitching is far, far superior to Minnesota’s, so that could make this a fairly quick series. 

Oh, and one more thing, in case you forgot: Marwin Gonzalez is one of their key players. I’m learning to love him…but the rest of Dodgers Nation would no doubt love to get some sweet, sweet revenge. 

Rating: 7 

Oakland Athletics

This would be perhaps the most fun of any World Series pairing. And narrative-wise, it would be a perfect contrast: the scraggly, low-budget Athletics trying to make Moneyball go all the way, versus the zillionaire Dodgers. Plus: Rich Hill and Max Muncy facing their old team! 

Unlike a meeting with Tampa Bay, however, there’s history tied to this one. The two teams have already met twice in the World Series, in 1974 and 1988. Oakland took the first, and (obviously) Los Angeles the second. A rubber match between these influential franchises is overdue. 

The only downside would be having to watch multiple games in Oakland’s hideously outmoded stadium. I love A’s fans, and I’ve practically lived at that stadium I’ve attended so many games since 2000 with my family. But the Coliseum is a dinosaur, one that can’t be replaced soon enough. 

Then again if you love a poetic mirror image, well…who wouldn’t want to clinch the next title at the very ground where the last one was secured 31 years ago? Just imagine Clayton Kershaw being hoisted by Russell Martin, Hershiser/Dempsey style. Ah…that feels good.  

Rating: 9 

New York Yankees

From 1941 to 1981, the Dodgers and Yankees weren’t just frequent World Series rivals. They WERE the World Series, elevating the Fall Classic with idyllic moments aplenty. Mickey Owen’s passed ball, Bill Bevens’ near no-hitter, Jackie Robinson’s controversial steal of home, Sandy Amoros’ snow cone catch, Don Larsen’s perfect game, Sandy Koufax’s domination, Reggie Jackson’s three-homer blitz, Bob Welch striking him out the next year, the Infield’s final triumph in 1981, etc. 

The rosters of those 11 match-ups read like the entirety of baseball royalty: Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Robinson, Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Koufax, Don Drysdale, Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Don Sutton, Casey Stengel, Walter Alston, Tommy Lasorda, Billy Martin, Bob Lemon….you get the idea. 

2019 wouldn’t be any different. Stanton, Judge, Sabathia, LeMahieu, and Severino vs. Bellinger, Seager, Muncy, Kershaw, and Ryu. Rosters that are obscenely talented, managed by two men (Dave Roberts and Aaron Boone) who know how to utilize depth in the face of constant injuries. 

Most other fanbases would despise having to sit through this match-up, and understandably so. But even those who hate the Dodgers and/or Yankees have to admit the game is at its best when they are at their respective best. And it’s been almost 40 years since the last WS meeting. It’s time for another. 

Rating: 10

Houston Astros

Look…you knew this would be saved for last. One way or another, the 2017 World Series and its seemingly endless regrets unifies every Dodgers fan as much as loving Vin Scully and Clayton Kershaw. We just can’t escape it, much as we wish we could. 

It’s a stretch to call the Astros a more hated WS rival than the Yankees. There simply isn’t a comparable level of shared history. But in the two years since their instant classic battle, Houston has quickly morphed from the seemingly lovable hurricane-purging heroes to a franchise almost comical in its villainy. (Two words: Zero tolerance.) 

And it’s not like they were really that wholesome in 2017. Josh Reddick’s obnoxious obsession with getting revenge on L.A. fans was truly pathetic. Far, far worse was Yuli Gurriel’s racist gesture to Yu Darvish. One that was embarrassingly applauded and imitated by fans at Minute Maid Park to boot. 

Those instances of classlessness and infantilism stick in the craw even more compared to last year’s Red Sox team, so composed in their dominance it was hard to muster any resentment when they finished off L.A. with relative ease. 

A rematch with the Other Hated Team in Orange and Black would be the ultimate endgame for this era of Dodger baseball. On the one hand, it would be the ultimate catharsis, a purging of perhaps the most painful memory that would only amplify the glory (think the Red Sox beating the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS). 

But if they lost again…whoo boy, that’s unfathomable. Gurriel and Reddick dancing on our graves again would be just the tip of the iceberg. The Dodgers would officially be the Buffalo Bills of baseball, and we’d never live it down. Ever. 

Personally, I’d rather not see a second installment of Dodgers-Astros. The 2017 World Series (chiefly anger over the Gurriel incident) is tied to too many traumatic memories from that time in my life. Call me soft, but I just don’t want to relive it at all. 

Objectively, though, I cannot deny it would have the juiciest narrative on every level. The Brooklyn Dodgers won the first title in 1955 by finally beating the Yankees after all that pinstripe-induced heartbreak. For the L.A. equivalent of ‘55, this would be the most fitting.

Rating: 10

Postseason play for Los Angeles begins on October 3rd and the team will once again start chipping away at 11 more victories en route to the ultimate goal. However, 3 of these teams will be standing in their way.

Who concerns you the most?

Written by Marshall Garvey

19 Comments

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  1. Great read and write up with this story. Personally I’m worried to see all of the teams in the N.L…. We did nothing to strengthen our biggest weakness, and hopefully this will be the hardest lesson of them all with the owners and Friedman in the future to spend the money and make the trades necessary to attain more talent than the other guy when given the chance to play for the title.Even if we get past the Nats, Cards or Braves,the Astros who understand what it takes to get everything they need will be waiting, salivating at the chance to hit against the worst bull pen in the playoff’s, and especially Kenley.

    • Thank you! And I’m actually weirdly confident in the bullpen…EXCEPT for Kenley. Every time he pitches, I will expect the worst. And like I said in a recent article, if he screw up even once, time to swap him out for the rest of the playoffs. We can’t afford that same pain all over again.

      • Marshall, I’m at the point where why even chance Kenley blowing yet another game.? There is no tomorrow in the playoff’s like a game of roulette. One bad spin, and game – series, season over. Kenley told all of us that he had found the “Grip” before the Rays series and he had it ALL figured out. Since then, he Blew a game we had in the bag like so many he’s blown this year. Then next time he comes in he gives up yet another run against the Rockies. He’s been a awesome Dodger and deserves a nice mop up job that Floro never could do, around the 6th inning. Other than that, we have 4 95 m.p.h. plus pitchers in the pen, that is “If Roberts puts May and Gonsolin” on the roster, and also if Kelly isn’t hurt. Just way too many questions about the pen for me..

  2. Unfortunately, I do not disagree with your analysis, Kirk. Although I choose to believe that our Dodgers can get past the Nats, Cards or Braves, I remain concerned about the World Series. Therefore, it is my hope that the Astros (by some divine intervention-as far as Dodgers lovers are concerned) don’t make it; and, we will contend with the Yankees or Twins. Although both of these teams are noteworthy competitors, we may have a better chance against one of them. Either way, I will be a believer….albeit, slightly delusional… that the Dodgers can pull this off.

    • All I know Barb, through many many years of playing, coaching, and being a big fan of baseball, whoever wins the World Series will have dominant shut down closer, and their bullpen will be able to hold a one run game after the starters go out. 1-0 2-1 wins happen often with the team that can win it all. Pitching and more pitching is the name of the game and we are not there this year.I truly hope I’m wrong, and I’m not the “I told you so” kind of person, but it is what it is.

      • Kirk, you are not telling me anything I don’t already know. I, too, have been a serious baseball fan for decades. What I am saying is that I am consciously choosing (albeit slightly delusional) to be a believer knowing fully well what we are up against. And if we don’t make it, glad you are not the “I told you so” type because the Dodgers not going the distance will not make either of us feel good.

        • All I ask Barb, is for Roberts to please send Floro ( Gives up 3 runs and 5 hits in 2/3 of a inning) anywhere as long as it is far away from this Dodgers team. He is taking up innings where we could be giving more guys work right now. By still seeing this hitting machine appearing in games, means that Roberts still has him in mind to make the Post season roster. This above all things is the biggest reason I am losing faith in Dave Roberts.

          • Hi, Kirk, and I do agree with ya here as far as Floro goes. Can you imagine the fallout if Roberts puts him on the PS roster and he comes in and implodes to the point where it costs the Dodgers a game? Interestingly enough the Dodgers would have had another combined no hitter had it not been for Floro’s outing, where he gave up all of the Padres 3 runs and all of their hits for he entire game!

  3. I personally don’t think about the WS i however think it’s funny how when any or the majority of us Dodger fans have talked about the postseason we have virtually skipped playoffs and begun talking or worrying about what the AL brings and how they can or may beat us, like were a guaranteed lock to make the WS, now do i expect us to make it, i do but i still think one step at a time, before all this talk of Astros or Yankees as if they are a guarantee, i don’t think the Yankees will make it to the WS, thats just my opinion, so that series against them was just a lot of media hype and made into a lot ado about nothing, in the NL i prefer not facing the Nats and the Cardinals always bring a certain amount of nervousness to me. The Braves also are not any slouch either the path in the NL is going to be a hard fought one so a lot of energy i think will be spent trying to get to the WS, i still believe this is our year.

    • Well said. I too am not sleeping on how difficult the NL playoffs will be, likely tougher than last year as ATL was easy to beat given their youth then. That won’t be the case for them this year, same for Washington and St. Louis.

    • Respectfully, how do we not think of the World Series? That ring is the ultimate end goal here, specifically after losing 2017 to the Astros and 2018 to the Red Sox.) Of course, attaining it will require, like most things, a step by step process. This explicitly includes getting through some very difficult NL teams first. Although we are definitely not a lock in for winning the NL, I have to believe that we can “pull it off” and successfully get to and through the World Series. I, too, am choosing to believe that this is our year which means I am thinking about winning the World Series.

  4. It would be great to play the Astros again in the world series, hope for a measure of revenge without Darvish around for them to feed on. But the truth is, I am not even sure this current Dodgers squad, with the current bullpen we have, can even get out of the National league playoffs alive.

    • It’s no guarantee for sure. The rest of the NL is stronger than a lot of Dodger fans realize.

      • I agree Marshall, and how Roberts and Co. manage the lineups and the pitching will have a lot to do with the outcomes too. Not putting their best lineups on the field because of lefty/righty match ups and how the BP fairs will have a lot to do with these outcomes also.

  5. I’m still confused as to why a bigger deal wasn’t made of what the Astros and the fans did. Their classless juvenile behavior throughout the series specifically from the pineapple head and their fans not caring a bit about it and even joining in. Very strange that it was all kind of swept under the rug as it was happening. I feel like if it was the Dodgers they would’ve lost the series based on those actions alone and everyone rooting against them. Somehow Houston didn’t pay for that at all in any way and they continue being the most classless group of guys. Sadly we’re choke artists and kind of soft so we won’t be the ones to put them in their place like BOS did. Hopefully someone in the al can

  6. I will simply give my reasons why perhaps Dodgers do not get to this year’s WS…
    1. Roberts and Co. most likely won’t put the best lineup they have on the field, preferring to play the L-R-L-R matchups and run games on the spreadsheet full of analytics.
    2 .CK, Buehler and Co. might give up the long ball or 2 of them in the 1st inning or so.
    3. If game is close and a save is in order, Kenley most likely cannot answer the bell and the rest of the BP will follow suite.
    4.Beings that most of the run production comes from the left side, Dodgers will face the tougher LHP whenever they may be available to nullify the offense. Also Dodgers cannot count on ‘slugging’ their way to victory in the PS. Another consideration is who is hitting 5th to protect Bellinger in the lineup because teams may simply pitch completely around him depending upon who is hitting behind him in that 5th spot.
    5. As with the lat few weeks, Dodger hitters have been striking out more than they were earlier in the year and especially with RISP.
    6. The health status of certain key players may be in question

  7. I keep praying that the streaky Dodgers are going to hit a nice hot streak just as the playoffs begin where everything is in sync. It is time to stop allowing opposing pitchers with ERA’s in the 6s and 7s look like Nolan Ryan in his prime. If Belli, Smith, and Muncey can get back in the groove, a la Corey Seager, the offense will be fine. The BP is the biggest concern. Doc is going to have to face facts regarding Jansen, but we have all been saying that all year. Win 11 games in October and let’s break this 31-year-old drought!!

  8. Bluz1st I totally agree with your last sentence. I also think every team mentioned in the article is licking their chops dreaming of feasting on Dodgers BP. (Shudders)

  9. To me, the million dollar question is whether the Dodgers start playing like the 1st half of this season where we were firing on all cylinders, or sucking wind like we have done over the 2nd half of the season. We are certainly going to find out real soon, while I hope and pray we can get back into the WS. All those National League teams have a lot of talent, and unlike the Dodgers, they have been tested this year whereas our season has been more of a cakewalk.

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